Hurricane Preparedness for Laboratories Using Hazardous Chemicals

UH Manoa: Hurricane Preparedness for Laboratories Using Hazardous Chemicals

Hurricanes, tsunamis and other natural disasters can threaten the safety and operation of research laboratories. Plans should be developed well in advance of these events to ensure the preservation of life and property. For general emergency preparedness information at the University of Hawaii, please see

In order to properly plan a course of action in research laboratories using hazardous chemicals, it is important to understand the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning.

Hurricane Watch – Hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. During a watch, listen to radio and television (TV) broadcasts and check the University of Hawai‘i Website Preparations should begin so that all phases of your contingency plan can be implemented in the event that a hurricane warning is issued.

Hurricane Warning – Issued when sustained winds of 74 mph or higher associated with a hurricane is expected within 36 hours. County Civil Defense sirens will sound. Continue to listen to radio and TV broadcasts and check the University of Hawai‘i Website.

Contingency Plan:

    1. Once a Hurricane Watch is issued the following should be implemented in your research areas.
      1. Experiments:Complete all running experiments and do not begin any new experiments that would require attention during an evacuation period or while a hurricane warning is in place.
        Note: Even with backup generators available, researchers should protect their valuable materials in case power, water and climate control are out of service for an extended period of time. Special arrangements may need to be made to protect and prevent release of hazardous chemicals.
    1. Once a Hurricane Warning is issued, the following should be implemented in your research areas.
      1. Chemical Safety:
        • Ensure all chemical and waste containers are clearly labeled and sealed.
        • Move all chemicals to appropriate storage locations (i.e., in cabinets and shelves away from windows).
        • Store water reactive chemicals in tightly sealed, waterproof containers.
        • Place flammable materials in approved flammable cabinets.
        • Remove chemicals from upper shelves and limit storage on bench tops.
        • Ensure gas cylinders are capped and secured to a permanent fixture using a cylinder strap or chain.
      1. Fume Hoods:
        • Remove all chemicals from fume hoods and secure in appropriate storage areas.
        • Close fume hood sashes completely. If the building experiences a complete loss of power, fume hoods will become inoperable.
      1. Equipment:
        • Unplug all non-essential equipment (hot-plates, magnetic stirrers, heat mantles, etc.).
        • Use surge protectors to protect sensitive equipment in the event of a power surge.
        • Turn refrigerators/freezers to coldest setting.
        • Ensure that all bench-mounted gas fixtures are in the off position.
        • Move computers and equipment as far from windows as possible.
        • Back-up important computer files.
      1. Security:
        • Close and lock all laboratory doors.
        • Avoid blocking exits and hallways.
        • Ensure emergency contact information is updated and posted on the outside of the laboratory door.
      1. Personal Safety

Above all else, personal safety is the number one priority. Follow all evacuation commands and do not enter buildings on campus until an all-clear is given by the proper authorities.

Note: This contingency plan does not encompass all hazards in a lab. Biological and radioactive materials may require additional measures. Please contact the EHSO for more Information